Kabongo Sparks Blue Hens as Delaware Improves to 3-0 with Hard-Fought 64-56 Road Win at Villanova
Photos Courtesy of Chris Permar
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- On a night when Blue Hen All-American Elena Delle Donne was held without a field goal over the final 14 minutes, it was senior Vanessa Kabongo (at right) who stepped up to add a spark and help Delaware stay unbeaten with a hard-fought 64-56 victory over Villanova Tuesday night the The Pavilion.
Kabongo came off the bench to score 10 points, including a jumper just inside the three-point line with 1:07 left that proved to be the dagger in the heart of Villanova.
Delaware (3-0), which earned votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the third straight week thanks to an 80-71 win over then No. 11 ranked Penn State last Thursday, knocked Villanova off for the fourth straight time and improved to 3-0 for the second straight year. The 3-0 start is the Blue Hens' fourth in 16 years under head coach Tina Martin.
“I couldn’t be happier for her,” said Martin of Kabongo. “There is a lot of competition for starting positions and Vanessa was frustrated because she wasn’t playing well in the beginning of the season. I told her that it’s a long season and to just do the best job she could. Tonight she came in right away and bang, hit a big jump shot. We wanted to challenge Villanova because we have some big games coming up. Villanova makes you earn every point and our team really hung tough. I’m proud of the way we stuck together and got through this.”
Despite being held down without a field goal for most of the second half, Delle Donne (at left) still managed to score a team-high 22 points and pull down a team-high nine rebounds. Junior forward Danielle Parker also had an effective night with 12 points.
Delle Donne, who entered the game averaging 36.5 points per game after scoring 33 in the season-opening win over Rhode Island and 40 against Penn State, has now scored 20 or more points in 11 of her last 12 games since last season.
Delaware shot a solid 42 percent from the field, held a 42-33 advantage on the boards, and committed just six turnovers. Delle Donne, the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week each of the last two weeks, has played every minute of the last two games and not committed a turnover in that span.
Villanova (3-2), which owns a 75-64 win over then No. 15 Michigan State earlier this season but was coming off a 56-41 loss to Ivy League power Princeton Saturday, got a big effort from junior forward Laura Sweeney who dropped in a career-high 25 points and pulled seven rebounds. No other Wildcat managed more than nine points on the night with Megan Pearson coming off the bench to contribute nine points and nine rebounds.
The game was tied seven times during the final six minutes of action before Delaware’s Akeema Richards put the Hens up for good with two free thows with 1:48 left and Kabongo followed with her big jumper. Delle Donne then added two defensive rebounds and drained four free throws over the final 32 seconds to clinch the win for the Blue Hens.
Villanova jumped out to a 12-8 lead in the first six minutes of the second half before the Hens erupted for 12 straight points to take a 20-12 advantage. The Hens still led by 10 points at 28-18 with 2:54 left in the opening half before the Wildcats put in a late flurry, getting three-pointers from Lindsay Kimmel and Pearson in the final two minutes to cut the margin to 30-27 at the break.
Villanova regained the lead at 35-34 on a three-pointer by Pearson just three minutes in but the Hens put in another big run as Parker scored the first four points of an 8-0 run as Delaware took a 42-35 advantage. Sweeney answered by scoring seven straight points herself to tie the game at 42-42 and Kimmel and Pearson drained back-to-back three-pointers to give the Wildcats a 48-42 advantage.
Kabongo started an 8-0 run for the Hens, hitting a layup to end a drought of 7:20 without a field goal, and followed with a turnaround jumper in the lane. Two free throws by Trumae Lucas gave the Hens a 50-48 lead with 6:53 left. Neither team led by more than two points the rest of the way until the final minute.
“As a fifth-year senior, there is a lot to do off the court too,” said Kabongo in response to not being a starter. “Even when you are sitting, you have to encourage people and be a leader. How hard we work every minute, every practice, determines our outcome. We are as capable as we want to be. The sky is the limit but we don’t want to look too far ahead. We have to take it one game at a time.”
Delaware will look to start 4-0 for the second straight year when the Hens head to St. Bonaventure for a 2 p.m. game Sunday in Olean, N.Y.Back To Women's Basketball Home Women's Basketball Story Archives